Scripps News Life


Are press on nails safe?

Are press on nails safe?
Posted at 12:24 PM, Feb 14, 2024

The products and services mentioned below were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Simplemost may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.

Press on nails offer convenience and can cover up flaws in your natural nails. They make it easy to switch between styles in minutes, and can save you a trip to the nail salon. But like any nail product, it’s important to consider the safety of press on nails. We reached out to experts and asked our questions, here’s their answers.

Can Press On Nails Harm Your Nails or Skin?

While press on nails are generally considered to be safe to use, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board certified dermatologist, associate professor of dermatology and the director of cosmetic & clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, spoke to Simplemost and explained that there is one major thing to consider.

“The major risk is an allergic reaction to the adhesive,” says Zeichner. “I don’t recommend using [press on nails] if you have a history of sensitive skin, eczema or allergies.”

However, since the press on nail adhesive can be easily removed, and you generally won’t leave them on for an extended period of time, they usually won’t cause damage to your natural nails. But Zeichner notes that you should avoid using press on nails if you have any open or raw skin. Bacteria can get trapped underneath the nails and contribute to a potential infection.

According to Zeichner, though, press on nails are a safer option as they don’t carry as much risk to your natural nails as other types of manicures.

Olive & June Instant Mani Squoval Short Press-On Nails

$10 at Walmart

“The semi permanent, acrylic nails or nail wraps can be damaging to the underlying nail itself, so I am hesitant to recommend them to my patients,” Zeichner explains.

He also adds that the process of removing the adhesive can cause skin dryness, and it can also potentially damage the actual nail.

“These treatments may give a desirable cosmetic outcome while you continue using them, but if you decide to remove them, it will take several months for the natural nail to grow out,” Zeichner says.

Plus, many artificial nail treatments require UV light to cure the material, which can have potential health risks.

“UV light exposure at the nail salon has been associated with an increased risk of developing skin cancer on the fingers,” Zeichner tells Simplemost.

In fact, Ohio State University reports that a study found that frequently using UV dryers can damage DNA and lead to cell death in your hands. Those effects can potentially increase your risk of skin cancer.

If you’re going to use a UV dryer, Zeichner recommends you protect your skin by wearing gloves and sunscreen. Airsee UV Gloves for UV Lamps and Eucerin’s Daily Hydration Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen can help protect your skin.

AIRSEE UV Gloves for Nail Lamp Eucerin Daily Hydration Broad Spectrum Spf 30 Sunscreen Body Cream For Dry Skin
$8 at Amazon $12 at Walmart

How to Use Press On Nails

When it comes to how to use press on nails,  you should start with a quality nail kit, but the success of your manicure depends on how you attach them.

Sarah Roberts, a licensed beauty and skincare consultant and founder of A Beauty Edit, shares some press on nail tips with Simplemost:

  1. Start by thoroughly cleansing your natural nails. Oils can interfere with the nails’ ability to adhere to your natural nails. Roberts recommends using an alcohol pad, like Alcohol Prep Pads, to remove those oils.
  2. Shape press on nails before you apply them. It’s easier to shape them before application than to file them down once they’re applied.
  3. Use limited glue. “Adopt a ‘less is more’ approach to prevent seepage that could lead to early lifting,” says Roberts.
  4. Create a secure bond. This means if you’re using adhesive tabs, press down firmly, for longer than you would expect.

Once you’ve applied the nails, you can maximize their durability in several ways.

“Avoid prolonged exposure to water — particularly hot — which can weaken the adhesive,” says Roberts. “Wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning.”

Roberts also recommends that you avoid using your nails as tools to pry things open as doing so can cause them to snap or lift.

Glamnetic Press-On Nail Kit

$15 at Sephora

Removing Press On Nails

As you remove press on nails, be gentle.

“Preventing tearing of the natural nail is key,” says Roberts. “Should you observe damage or weakening, consider taking a break from press ons to concentrate on nail repair and strengthening treatments.”

As for the best way to remove press on nails, Roberts has three options:

Soak-Off Method

Immerse your nails in warm, soapy water. The hot water will help to dissolve the adhesive, loosening the nails to the point where you can remove them. This is a gentle approach, but it’s time-intensive.

Oil Method

The oil method involves applying a cuticle oil, such as Essie On a Roll Roll-On Hydrating Cuticle Oil. The oil works to gradually break down the glue. Roberts, however, notes that this method might not work if the adhesive is particularly strong. Plus, while quicker than water, it’ll still take some time.

essie Nail Care, Apricot Cuticle Oil and Nail Treatment

$14 at Amazon

Acetone Method

Immersing your nails in an Acetone Nail Polish Remover will quickly disintegrate the adhesive. If you’re limited for time, this might be your best bet. However, Roberts does warn that it comes with down sides.

“Although effective, this approach may lead to dehydration of both natural nails and cuticles,” explains Roberts.

Each nail removal method has its own pros and cons. Consider the adhesive you’ve used as well as the condition of your nail health when deciding which removal method is right for you. If you don’t remove press on nails carefully, you could damage the nail bed.

Additionally, regularly moisturize them using creams or oils, like the Vaseline Healthy Hand & Nail Conditioning Lotion. The Elon Lanolin-Rich Nail Conditioner is another great choice that can also help to protect your cuticles.

With the right care and approach, you can absolutely enjoy the benefits of press on nails at home while maintaining your natural nail health.

Are press on nails safe? originally appeared on